When Phoebe Seiders booked a last-minute hotel in Lincoln City, Oregon, in June ahead of the Aug. 21 eclipse, she wondered: What’s the catch?
She says her booking was a little last-minute by standards of other eclipse-enthusiasts. (One hotel in Madras, Oregon, has been booked since 2013).
“I figured by that point — between people coming northward and people coming southward — just about everything should be booked up,” Seiders said.
Seiders is one of an estimated one million people expected to flood into Oregon for the eclipse, the first of its kind in 38 years. She expected to pay upwards of $900 for a room because of it, but instead paid half that.
“I am a little concerned I’m going to show up and check in and they’re going to say ‘Surprise! Since it’s the eclipse and everybody’s jacking up their rates, then we’re going to charge you double for the room,'" Seiders said.
And according to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Seiders’ fear isn’t misplaced. Some hotels are capitalizing on the demand for hotels as an illegal business opportunity.
The Oregon Department of Justice saw an increase in consumer complaints over canceled hotel reservations and sudden price increases for rooms already booked.
“While most hotels play by the rules, we are concerned that some could try to make money off of this unique event, and increase the price of the hotel room without telling the customer,” Rosenblum said in a statement.
“We want to make sure travelers know that hotels must honor their advertised prices, regardless of whether the prices are advertised directly by the hotel, or with a third party.”
In some cases, hotel prices doubled and even tripled without notice to customers.
That practice is illegal under the state’s Unlawful Trade Practice Act, which prohibits businesses from misleading customers over the cost of certain services.
The DOJ says its working with 12 hotels involved in such complaints. They say seven of those businesses have agreed to honor prices made at booking time.